The fan, a Kansas City-area native named Josh Swade, has arranged a meeting with KU donor David Booth, the same man whose last name hangs on the outside of the Booth Family Hall of Athletics at Allen Fieldhouse.
Swade has weaseled his way into the meeting by telling Booth, a Lawrence native, that he’s shooting a documentary about bringing the rules back to KU, and then he drops the hammer.The rules belong in Lawrence, Swade says. They’re about to go up for auction at Sotheby’s in New York. We have to do this.
Booth sort of smiles and nonchalantly shrugs his shoulders.
“I’m good for a million,” he says, as if he just decided to buy a few boxes of Girl Scout cookies.
The new film, which will make its television debut on ESPN on Tuesday night as part of ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary series, will be screened in Lawrence at the Lied Center on Saturday night.
We got our hands on an advance copy of the finished product earlier this week, and came away with two observations.
If you’re expecting this film to have the same riveting pull that has defined most of the “30 for 30” series, you may be disappointed. (To be fair, ESPN has set the bar pretty high.) If there’s drama here, it’s mostly lighthearted. But if you’re a fan or observer of KU basketball, you’ll probably enjoy the hour-length film, with much of it coming off as an emotional ode to the history and tradition of the Kansas basketball.
Swade is a super fan — probably the same as thousands of other kids from Johnson County who grew up rooting for KU. And the entire film is told from this point of view. There’s beensome criticism
that the movie may not have much national, widespread appeal. And that’s probably fair. But if you’re a KU fan, it seems unlikely that this will detract from your viewing experience.
The crux of the film is simple. It’s late 2010, and Swade, who works for a production company in New York, reads a story about the rules going up for auction in the New York Times. He decides they need to be in Lawrence. And so he brings along a film crew as he traverses the country to try to convince some deep-pocketed KU donors that they should bid on the rules. (Cue awkward encounters with donors.)
There are a few things that are unclear. To secure the meetings with the donors, Swade tells them he is making a documentary about KU basketball. This is true, of course. But he mostly uses it as a guise to hit them up for money. (Presumably, the idea for what the documentary would become was at least present the whole time.)
You’ll recognize plenty of faces. Roy Williams, Larry Brown and Jay Bilas appear, making a case that the rules belong in Lawrence. KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger shows up. As do former Jayhawks Cole Aldrich and Drew Gooden.
Swade also comes through Kansas City and does a small media tour, trying to stir up attention for his mission. If you’re from Kansas City, the names and faces will be familiar.
If there’s a specific gripe here, it’s that there are too many scenes where Swade is traveling around the country and melodramatically saying something similar to “We have to pull this off!” But there’s also some elements of history that even a staunch KU fan might not be familiar with, including Naismith and Phog Allen's role in making basketball an Olympic sport. That stuff is pretty good.
Finally, 47 minutes into the film, Bill Self makes an appearance. And coincidence or not, the film finishes strong. We’ll forego any spoilers. (Although you probably know how it ends.) But you can be safe in assuming that there’s an auction scene, a few more words from Self, and lastly, Swade's final trip back home, to the confines of Allen Fieldhouse and Naismith Court.